Jewish Journal


April 2, 2013

Evergreening in Big Pharma



By M. Alexander

Yesterday, India’s Supreme Court rejected Novartis’ patent application for the cancer drug Glivec.  You may ask, “Why is this important to discuss on a Jewish blog about redemption?”

This case grabbed my attention because of allegations that the Swiss pharmaceutical giant has been practicing something called “evergreening,” making minor, inconsequential changes to a drug so that it cannot be made in generic form.  Many in both the developing world and the developed world do not have the ability to pay for their treatment.  Yet, it doesn’t seem that pharmaceutical companies care in the least bit.  They are more concerned about profit than they are about saving lives.

Healthcare-related industries need to refocus their purpose.  This is not to say that they should not be able to turn a profit for their innovative and life-saving medications.  But the primary emphasis must be health— otherwise these companies should be held responsible for false advertising.

It has been argued that this is a huge defeat for intellectual property rights and that corporations should have exclusive access to the products that they create.  It has been argued that this ruling will discourage medical innovation.  This should not be the case—innovation should arise from a desire to heal rather than a desire to make huge sums of cash.  Intellectual property should not conflict with the inalienable right that human beings have to live long and healthy lives.

Dear Novartis,

Redemption is possible.  Work on your mission.  Make sure that business does not interfere with integrity.



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